If you are a traveler you might have a special feeling when you go and visit the small town of Sagres – it is almost like a pilgrimage. This is pretty much the place where international travel started with Henry the Navigator.
Henry was the man who started the Portuguese explorations of the rest of the world. Before the Portuguese started to sail the seas pretty much nobody had gone on transcontinental voyages before – sure you had the Vikings reaching North America making a small settlement – but they didn’t stay for long and never made it back to Europe. And you had a few Chinese explorations going across the Indian Ocean – but then the Chinese closed off the country to the rest of the world. Hence Portugal is where intercontinental travel began and where people starting to dream about sailing into the horizon and go where no man had gone before.
Sagres is located in Portugal the most southwesterly country in Europe and Sagres is right down in the southwesterly corner of Portugal – pretty much were you reach the end of Europe the old world as it was known in the 15th century. Maybe this location at the end of the world was part of the reason Henry started to look to the horizon wanting to explore and discover. Legend has it he had a school of navigation at this little location of Sagres – but in fact it probably wasn’t an actual school in the traditional sense more like a few random experts coming to perform certain tasks.
There is nothing left of the original fortress in Sagres – it was destroyed by the British privateer Sir Francis Drake in the 1587 so what you see today is a much newer fortress – but the visit to this place is still very interesting. It is a real end of the world place with the fortress protecting the access to a little inlet. The inlet has steep cliffs and there are some great views around the area. I guess the views might be more impressive than the actual fortress. Never the less we head inside the fortress to have a look at the buildings and an old remain of a compass or solar clock – or something like that which according to legend was made during the time of Henry the Navigator – though it probably of a much later date.
You can walk out from the fortress to the inlet it is protecting – it is nice walk around the inlet where there are a lot of wildflowers blooming and birds flying around the area. Walking around the inlet you get great views of the cliffs of the area. The locals come out here to go fishing from the cliffs – they just through their lines down to the water far below us.
After completing the walk around the inlet it is time to move on. From Sagres it is only a short drive to another little place – the Cape St. Vincent. The cape is actually the southernmost spot in Portugal – so if you only go to Sagres you are not really at the end of Europe even though it felt that way. The cape got dramatic cliffs which was what met the Portuguese explores when they went back from their overseas explorations back in the Age of Discovery. There is a small light house – but the area is pretty small so unless you decide to visit the museum it will be over quickly when you have taken in the views of the cliff.